Michael Iantorno PhD Candidate, Game Designer, and Writer

Rivalry’s End Review

Rivalry's End

Rivalry’s End has problems. Lots and lots of problems.

The premise is simple. Venture captain and notorious information broker Grandmaster Torch has finally amassed enough intelligence to track down The Spider, a criminal kingpin with a vendetta against the Pathfinder Society. The Pathfinders are tasked with infiltrating The Spider’s hideout and capturing her alive.

This task is more or less a straight dungeon crawl. A small wrench is thrown into the machinery due to the location of The Spider’s hideout – underneath a gambling hall during a heated tournament – but entry is relatively easy to negotiate. It’s one of those obligatory social encounters that is as interesting as your game master decides to make it.

The core of the adventure is circumventing the guardians and traps within the crime lord’s layer. Unfortunately, for such a notorious crime lord, The Spider really skimped on both of these safety measures.

Maybe she squandered her ill-gotten gains on spider-themed decorations?

The clockwork soldiers guarding the hallways aren’t much of a deterrent. Although somewhat buoyed by their DR and appreciable weapon damage, their automated tactics and lack of combat options ultimately let them down.

The traps don’t pose much of a threat either. The first trap is a giveaway. A slightly ajar secret door across the hall from a gigantic spider engraving? Could you make a web trap any more obvious? All this hazard does is validate the compulsive perception checks rogues make on doorways.

The second trap isn’t as obvious, but the repercussions for tripping it can be shrugged off. At the low tier, the mental ability damage from touch of idiocy likely isn’t going to impede the point man in the party too sorely. At the high tier, the illusory script effect has a oddly low save DC.

Grandmaster Torch

The intention of this trap is to soften up the party for the final bout with The Spider. Being a bard, she can take advantage of the ability damage caused by touch of idiocy to land one of her enchantment spells.

However, being a bard, she performs incredibly poorly in solo combat.

My low tier party dropped the notorious crime lord in under two rounds. At the high tier, she’s a little more threatening due to having dominate person and greater invisibility at her disposal, but she is still incredibly fragile and entirely reliant on the players flopping their will saves.

And who doesn’t have a shirt or portfolio re-roll at this point?

I’m hesitant to discuss the ending of the scenario in detail due to its narrative clout. Rivalry’s End is, of course, the retirement scenario for members of the Shadow Lodge. The fate of this faction and everyone’s favourite badly burned venture captain, Grandmaster Torch, are decided in the final pages of the adventure.

What I will disclose is that I felt that Grandmaster Torch deserved better. Much better.

This goes for the whole scenario, not just the ending. Rivalry’s End is a surprisingly weak outing given the narrative burden it shoulders. The premise is overly linear, the traps and encounters are easy to deal with, and the final fate of Grandmaster Torch is unpalatable. It’s a short one too, easily clocking in at under three hours.

Play it once if you have a Shadow Lodge character, but avoid it otherwise.

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By Mathew
Michael Iantorno PhD Candidate, Game Designer, and Writer